Property Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Snyder Cut rights a grave wrong

Sometimes, setting a precedent is a necessary evil.

The theatrical release of Justice League in 2017 was an unmitigated disaster. The plot was all over the place, the editing was unpolished, and it generally didn’t seem ready for release. But, the rumors began of another cut by the original director Zack Snyder. Snyder, who had stepped down for personal reasons, was generally regarded as someone who knew what they were doing when it comes to comic book film adaptations (see Man of Steel, 300 and Watchmen). This cut was much longer but supposedly closer to the original vision of what Justice League should have been.

The Snyder Cut was that and much more.

Putting together a coherent feature, the Snyder Cut is infinitely more watchable than the original cut of the film. Character motivations make more sense, important details are emphasized, and subplots and sometimes even characters are restored. Snyder’s delicate touch and worldbuilding are vital with an ensemble picture such as this, and it shows in the many changes made to correct.

One of those material effects is the origin story of Cyborg. With Snyder’s vision restored and more of the important details of his transition from human to cyborg, Cyborg is more present than he ever hoped to be in the original cut. Actor Ray Fisher is a force to be reckoned with in the film, and through this re-characterization you can immediately see why. Fisher must balance the nature of humanity versus machine after Victor Stone’s accident, and he does so with stunning aplomb.

Also of note, The Flash, as portrayed by Ezra Miller, is also superb with the restoration of his character in Snyder’s version. Miller takes the character from jokester to serious world-saving hero with several amazing scenes, including one that eventually won an Academy Award. Though this is not a review of Warner Bros.’ failures, take note that the scene that won the Oscar was among quite a few that the studio and theatrical director Joss Whedon cut from the original final product.

Snyder’s final cut blows away the original theatrical cut and makes good use of the extended run time. It’s almost as if an ensemble film should be this long and this good on purpose. While we’re not fans of the precedent set in having multiple releases of the same film, the original cut of Justice League was an abomination that necessitated the Snyder version’s release. Trust us when we say the film only has room for one abomination in the form of Darkseid.

Story: 8
Acting: 10
Like the comics?: 9

Total score: 27/30 or 9.0

 

HOW WE GRADE

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Top 5 on the Strip: Comic book games edition

1. Marvel vs. Capcom series

If there were ever a polarizing yet fun fighting game, it’s probably Marvel vs. Capcom. The first few Versus games are fun yet broken, but you don’t know broken until you get to Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Spending 18 hours at a tournament to watch the same 10 characters fight in teams of three makes you dislike and love a game at the same time.

2. Batman Arkham series

Batman’s run of action-adventure games has quite a few standouts. Rocksteady outdid themselves in letting you become the Dark Knight and immerse yourself in the world of Gotham and the insane asylum that is Arkham. Any entries are classics that shouldn’t be missed.

3. X-Men arcade game

“Welcome to die!” is a pleasant yet infamous greeting waiting for you at the end of the X-Men quarter muncher. Gold and Blue ’90s-era X-Men join and fight in a team of four to take on the Brotherhood of Mutants. It’s a fun romp that reminds you of how powerful the original animated series was in terms of impact on gamers and comic book nerds alike.

4. TMNT 2: The Arcade Game

If there is ever a game on this list that personifies GI and its life in the ’90s, it’s this sequel. Easily one of the best quarter stealers of all time, TMNT2 took everything from the comics, the original animated TV show and the movies and turned it into an ultra-fun excursion in the world of the lean mean green fighting machine.

5. Marvel Ultimate Alliance

An insanely fun brawler that’s chock full of Marvel awesomeness, the first Ultimate Alliance game is fun and full of depth. It’s also co-op and introduced you to the then-obscure Marvel characters that are now household names. I didn’t know the Winter Soldier then or Fing Fang Foom but I bet I do now. This is the Marvel encyclopedia.

Strip Talk #28: All hail the return of Keaton, king of the Batmen

The king has returned home to his throne. All is right in the world of DC.

It had better be because the best Batman is returning.

Michael Keaton has been announced to return in the Flash’s new movie as a different version of the Caped Crusader. This version, in line with his continuity as Bruce Wayne/Batman from our favorite Batman films, is an alternate universe version of Batman, different from Ben Affleck’s most recent version. While Affleck was decent as was Christian Bale, there is no one more deserving of a return to the tights and cowl as Keaton.

Keaton is the version of Batman that I know. Yes, I was around through ’80s syndication for the Adam West version of the ’60s, but Keaton is the big-screen version that I grew up with. He’s the model that made me fall in love with the Dark Knight. Not the comics, not the animated series in 1992. No, Keaton is the version that defined the duality of Bruce Wayne and Batman. Keaton held his own and managed to go toe-to-toe with scene mangler Jack Nicholson as the Joker, which is a feat unto itself. Keaton gave the quintessential performance that set the standard for how a brooding Bruce Wayne should be. He is the template that all later Batmen are created from. Despite there being almost 30 years since his last portrayal of the character, he is the gold standard.

I’m excited and looking forward to a DC movie for the first time in many years because Keaton is back and ready to do justice to Bruce Wayne once again. I’ve missed him and very much think no one else can compare.

All hail the king. I’m ready to dance with the devil under the pale moonlight once again.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Top 5 on The Strip: Batman versions

1. Batman (Earth Two version): This version of Bruce Wayne settles down with Selina Kyle and has a daughter, Helena Wayne, who becomes Huntress. Eventually, Bruce becomes police commissioner. After a one last adventure as Batman, he is killed in battle trying to stop the destruction of the city. As he was still using his secret identity, Doctor Fate of Earth Two changes reality to keep his identity secret and lets everyone believe that Bruce died of cancer at Wayne Manor.

2. Batman film — Michael Keaton: Michael Keaton, the first of the film cowl wearers, was derided when he was announced in the mid-1980s. No one could believe that “Mr. Mom” would do the trick. And then 1989’s Batman hit the silver screen and the noise stopped. Not only was Keaton excellent, but also he brought a much-needed severity to the character and was wholly believable inside and outside of the tights.

3. Flashpoint Batman: In the Flashpoint version of Batman, Thomas and Martha Wayne — the murdered parents of Bruce Wayne in all Batman origin stories — don’t die. Instead, Bruce is killed in Crime Alley in their place. In their grief and attempts to cope with Bruce’s death, Thomas becomes Batman and Martha becomes the Joker. Eventually, both learn that in the true timeline, they die in the place of Bruce and he becomes Batman to avenge their deaths.

4. Batman film — Christian Bale version: Christian Bale took a franchise that was mired in the depths of mediocrity and downright unintentional hilarity and gave it life again. Bale made it cool to like Batman and the Caped Crusader’s credibility was restored. It only took two movies, arguably, to achieve this feat: Batman Begins in 2005 and The Dark Knight in 2008, all lead by Bale. The Dark Knight Rises was just an added bonus to seal the deal.

5. Batman kills the Joker/Injustice: Gods Among Us Year 3 Batman: In a version of the Injustice storyline, Batman actually kills the Joker. After the Joker plants a bomb killing Lois Lane, Batman captures him and attempts to turn him in. As they’re riding to Arkham Asylum, the Joker intimates that he will likely try again to torment Superman and hints at trying to kill Superman’s baby. Batman snaps and well, breaks the Joker’s neck.

Top 5 on The Strip: Animated superhero cartoons

Batman animated series

1. Batman: The Animated Series

The standard bearer for modern superhero cartoons, Batman: The Animated Series was gritty, dark and fresh off the success of Batman Returns. It’s well-drawn with a neat art deco style and the voice acting set the standard for future series. If you weren’t watching this every day after school, you missed out. Immediately go back and watch this from beginning to end.

Teen Titans

2. Teen Titans

Teen Titans took a different tack when talking about Robin’s squad of heroes. It’s a great look at the younger superheroes of the DC universe in a group that still stands today. Featuring Robin, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg and Beast Boy, the show focuses on the group being young superheroes while also being teenagers with typical teenager problems. The voice work is fantastic and the animation is top-notch as well.

tmnt 1987 series

3. TMNT (1987 series)

We’re well-known TMNT fans here at GI and that love stems from the old black-and-white comics as well as the original animated series. That series, with its ’80s attitude and charm, managed to get us into the Turtles to start and paved the way for the juggernaut that was and still is the Turtles franchise. Outstanding voicework — featuring the likes of Jim Cummings and the late James Avery — make it one of the best ’80s animated series and a good introduction to the TMNT universe at large.

X-men fox animated

4. X-Men: The Animated Series

Aside from the classic theme, X-Men: The Animated Series featured a stellar voice cast and stories that mostly stayed faithful to the comics. At the time of its 1992 inception, this was unheard of in comic properties translated to TV. X-Men established several characters as favorites: Storm, Wolverine, Professor X, Jean Grey, Cable, Bishop, Gambit and Jubilee. It was so great that incarnations of the characters featured in the show have been used in multiple video game properties since.

spiderman-1994

5.  Spider-Man (Fox)

Another great Fox animated series, Spider-Man was a fantastic showcase of the web-crawler’s style and storylines. It featured quite a few of Peter Parker’s rogues gallery and touched on a lot of his story arcs with accuracy and maturity not usually seen in comic book shows. As with X-Men: The Animated Series, Spider-Man had great voice acting that carried over into video games produced thereafter, such as the Marvel Versus series.

Property review: Batman Forever

Batman-Forever-01Batman Forever

Warner Bros., 1995

The point in which the Bat falters

There comes a time in every Batman fan’s life where they must do the expected: rank the original quadrilogy of films. And, sure, everyone knows that any Batman fan worth their salt is going to put the first film in the No. 1 slot, Batman Returns second and Batman and Robin dead last. But where does that leave the third film if you’re not going by that requirement? In our estimation, squarely in the middle. A middling film deserves nothing more than that.

Batman Forever doesn’t have as many problems as its successor does, but it doesn’t exactly inspire the warmest feelings toward the franchise. Its main problem is the fact that Val Kilmer — as good as an actor as he might be — isn’t exactly our idea of Batman/Bruce Wayne. We were in no way convinced that he should have taken up the cowl and tights, well after he did. It was a colossal miscast that rather plunged the franchise into the downward spiral that it remained in until Batman Begins.

The second problem is the casting of Jim Carrey as the Riddler. He wasn’t terrible, but if he can steal every scene in a movie, he will, and it will not always be pleasant. We get the appeal of Carrey because he was the only person at the time that could have possibly carried off the campiness of the Riddler, but his presence actually hurt the film more than it helped.

While we’re on the subject of the villains present in the film, we have to give something to Tommy Lee Jones as Harvey Dent/Two Face. Jones managed to make Two Face interesting and bring some much-needed levity to the proceedings, but we’re still upset at the way Two Face went out. Why mess up the established train of common sense that Two Face provided with a weak conclusion? It was unnecessary, and it made the conclusion a little underwhelming.

We appreciated the inclusion of Robin/Dick Grayson, which was needed after two previous films with the Boy Wonder missing. Grayson, as played by Chris O’Donnell, provided some of the films brightest spots, which is much better than the contributions of Nicole Kidman. Kidman, a fine actress in her own right, was a throwaway character and dragged the film down quite a bit. There is no chemistry between her character, Chase Meridian, and Val Kilmer’s Wayne, and it’s obvious pretty early on.

So, with uninteresting leads with no chemistry, a scene-hogging main villain and a decent plot, there’s nothing that really draws the Batman fan into watching it multiple times. A middling experience within a middle movie.

Story: 6

Like the comics: 3

Casting: 3

Total: 12 out of 30 or 4

How we grade

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in the case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of a maximum of 10 per category, and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Top 5 on The Strip: Comic book roles with multiple actors

Batman

1. Batman
The Dark Knight has long been a friend of the big and small screen. Five actors have stepped into the dual role of Bruce Wayne and Batman: Adam West in the 1966 television show, Michael Keaton in 1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns, Val Kilmer in 1995’s Batman Forever, George Clooney in 1997’s Batman and Robin, and Christian Bale in the Dark Knight trilogy of films from 2005 to 2012.

Superman animated

2. Superman
At least six men have played the iconic superhero in television and film roles. Starting with George Reeves in 1951, the role was then taken the big screen by Christopher Reeve in four films from 1978 to 1987, then television by Dean Cain in 1993 and Tom Wellington in 2001, and back to film by Brandon Routh in 2006 and Henry Cavill in 2013.

Spider-Man animated series

3. Spider-Man
There have only been two actors to suit up as the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler: Tobey Macguire for three outings in 2002, 2004 and 2007; and Andrew Garfield in two films in 2012 and 2014.

Joker-Animated Series

4. The Joker
Batman’s arch nemesis has only appeared three times but each time has been memorable, film or television. Caesar Romero originated the role of the maniacal clown prince of crime with the television version of Batman also starring Adam West. Jack Nicholson took over the role opposite Michael Keaton in 1989’s Batman, Mark Hamill has voiced the Joker for Batman: The Animated Series and Heath Ledger posthumously won an Oscar for his portrayal in The Dark Knight.

Hulk animated

5. The Hulk
Four actors have portrayed the unstable Dr. Bruce Banner and his counterpart, the Incredible Hulk. Bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno played the Hulk while Bill Bixby played the good doctor in the live action television version first. Hulk moved to the silver screen and was first portrayed by Eric Bana, then Ed Norton and finally, Mark Ruffalo.

Strip Talk #21: Don’t let outside opinion sway your film loves

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineListen, there comes a time in the entertainment business that things (i.e. songs, movies, art) will be remade. And we will have to live with it. Just because something is a classic, that doesn’t mean it’s sacred and off limits. No, this is Hollywood. Land of the movie stars, mega rich and lack of creativity so distinct that it is often duplicated and imitated worldwide. Hollywood knows nothing about creativity and originality so, inevitably, there will be a remake or reboot of a franchise where multiple people have played the same role over the course of several movies. Let’s take, for example, Batman. The Caped Crusader has been played by numerous people yet remains popular. So, with the passing of the torch by the latest to step into the iconic tights — Christian Bale to Ben Affleck — there’s been a frenzy of criticism surrounding the casting. Justified and unjustified, you might say.

I’ll admit, I’m not exactly seeing Affleck in the dual role. I get his sex appeal and his acting chops. He’s got all of that and then some to spare, but he doesn’t exactly jump out at me as the perfect Bruce Wayne and Batman. But, in fact, history shows that the first actor to bring Batman to life — Michael Keaton — faced the same sort of scrutiny. And what do you know? He just happened to weigh in on the situation:

My guess is he’s a smart guy. I don’t know Ben, but he’s been around long enough to see all this stuff happen,” Keaton said. “My guess is he’s laughing [at the criticism], he’s laughing and I hope he’s going, ‘Shut up!'”

And that about sums up my feelings on the matter.

Now, full disclosure, I love Keaton as an actor. I really do, and I loved him as Batman. I’m just old enough to remember the hype surrounding the original movie and to remember not being allowed to see it without an adult present. But I don’t remember the criticism Keaton received, and from what I know, there was plenty of it. I read about it and my initial thought was, who cares? My next thought was, Keaton made an excellent Batman/Bruce Wayne so I guess he proved quite a few folks wrong, didn’t he? My third thought on the matter, after reading the interview with Keaton on Affleck as a choice, was, why did they ask Keaton? Is he in charge of casting, because if he is, that’s news to me. He doesn’t care and, yet, someone felt they had to go there as if it’s the elephant in the room that no one is talking about. No one is talking about it because it’s a non-issue. Not important. Next.

Here’s my main point: What does it matter what anyone thinks, outside of Affleck and studio executives? He’s the one getting paid for putting on the cowl and cape. They’re the ones risking two franchises with casting (remember, Superman and Batman are affected by the next film). All of the critics in the world aren’t necessarily the end-all, be-all for a movie. And, you should never listen to a film critic, anyhow. It’s all subjective in the first place and how someone feels about a movie could change with the next human over. This is what I want you, the reader, to take from this: Make up your own mind and don’t rely on someone else’s thoughts to determine what you like and don’t like. Because, as I like to say all of the time, you aren’t the one cutting the check or depositing it, either.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

Top 5 on The Strip: Villainesses

Selene - Marvel

1. Selene (Black Queen – Hellfire Club) – Marvel

Selene – better known as the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club – is at least 17,000 years old and continuously wreaks havoc on the Marvel Universe, mostly by terrorizing the X-Men. She’s featured as the boss of one of Gambit’s stages in Spider-Man & the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge, so you know she’s obnoxious.

Mutant power: Life-draining psychic vampire, flame manipulation

 Star Sapphire-Carol Ferris

2. Star Sapphire – DC

The original Star Sapphire had several remarkable powers that included the use of a violet Power Ring (like the Green Lantern Corps). The main thing to know about Star Sapphire is that she is a group, a corps just like the Green Lantern. The group is possessed by the Star Sapphire gem, which is attracted to worthy females who are in love with Hal Jordan. Remember folks, stalking and harrassment are crimes, no matter if you are a gem or not.

Super power: Violet Power Ring possession, force blasts, protective shield, flight

 Lady Deathstrike

3. Lady Deathstrike – Marvel

Yeah, so Yuriko Oyama has an adamantium-bonded skeleton similar to Wolverine’s. The reason for this? Because she wanted to have it. It wasn’t that she had it forced on her; no, she asked Spiral to do the process because she wanted to be able to kill Wolverine, who she thought stole the theories and ideas on the adamantium process. Receiving cybernetic implants as well, Yuriko has hunted Wolverine for decades.

Mutant power: Superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability and agility; unbreakable skeleton laced with adamantium and 10 claws made of adamantium; and a cybernetic healing factor.

 Talia al Ghul

4. Talia ah Gul – DC

The daughter of Ra’s ah Gul, Talia has carried on her father’s life of crime and destruction. She’s covertly worked to take over Gotham City, injured or killed numerous people and lead the notorious League of Assassins. Her saving grace is the fact that she married Bruce Wayne and produced an heir, Damien Wayne. Eventually, she disowns Damien after realizing that he would always oppose her after taking up his father’s cause. Motherly love this is not.

Super power: Enhanced longevity, genius-level intelligence, superior marksmanship and swordsmanship

 Mystique

5. Mystique – Marvel

There isn’t much that Mystique hasn’t done. In several realities, she has been the cause of assassinations of key figures that leads to the downfall of that reality (see: Days of Future Past) and has betrayed quite a few people in her path. Given that she’s able to shapeshift at will into whomever she wants, Mystique has used that power to further her own agenda and goals. Usually, those goals are in line with the Brotherhood of Evil.

Mutant power: Shapeshifting

Top 5 on The Strip: Batman films

Dark Knight

The Dark Knight (2008): Visually, this wasn’t much to look at, but the acting is what takes center stage. Heath Ledger stole the show right from under Christian Bale, and Aaron Eckhart is no joke as Harvey Dent/Two Face. Everything about it screams serious and dark, which is fitting.

 

Batman 1989

Batman (1989): As the first in the movie franchise, Batman set the course for the first two films and showed why the Dark Knight is a force to be reckoned with. Yeah, so people complained about Michael Keaton. He more than shows that he was a more-than-competent Batman. Also, Jack Nicholson’s malevolent Joker was a scene-stealer, which shouldn’t be hard to do as the Clown Prince of Crime.

 

Dark Knight Rises

Dark Knight Rises (2012): The finale in the second Batman trilogy of films is well-worth the price of going to the movies these days. Anne Hathaway was a serviceable Catwoman and Tom Hardy was perfect as Bane. Christian Bale was still good, and we even could get with the plot despite never having read the Bane-particular parts of the comic. Engaging is the right word for the final Batman with Christopher Nolan at the helm.

 

Batman Forever

Batman Forever (1995): Sure, it’s cartoony and could use some cheesiness grated out of it, but the one turn of Val Kilmer in the tights actually isn’t that bad. It’s obvious that he didn’t really want to be Batman, but the atmosphere is interesting and the visual style is a welcome change from Tim Burton’s previous efforts. Jim Carrey was perfect for the role of the Riddler, too.

 

Batman Returns

Batman Returns (1992): We’ve thrown around the term “Too Many Villains Syndrome” a lot in The Strip, and Returns is the progenitor of that affliction. However, Burton’s dark gritty style is all over this, and it makes a great deal of difference between a marginal effort and something that shines despite its problems. And, Michelle Pfeiffer is hot as Catwoman.